WWE RAW versus SmackDown Live - Who Pinned Whom?
Which brand ultimately emerged superior after the Brand Split? Which one needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink their game?
This week in wrestling was advertised as a ‘New Era’ for the WWE. After the brand split of the week prior, the roster was divided in half (more like 66.6-33.3% actually); and wrestling fans picked sides between the red brand ie. Monday Night Raw and the blue brand, ie. SmackDown Live.
While I was just as excited as any other Indian wrestling fan, I also dreaded waking up pre-dawn for two consecutive days a week. Then I realized, that Pay-Per-View weeks would mean waking up before dawn…thrice a week.
Horror of horrors. But it was all for a better cause; to watch larger-than-life characters indulge in fake fighting for large gold belts. In other words, the greatest form of entertainment known to man. Professional Wrestling. Sports Entertainment. What have you.
The idea for a split roster, as many internet experts have claimed through the years, was to bring back the Monday Night Wars, where Monday Night RAW and WCW Nitro battled it out for ratings supremacy, within the WWE brand itself.
An idea which resulted in cut-throat competition through the early 2000s, between the two sub-brands of the WWE. So, this was the burning question. Which brand ultimately emerged superior? Which one would need to go back to the drawing board and rethink its product?
Experts had been dubbing SmackDown as the favourites, before the shows even aired. Not only did it have the more popular Commissioner and General Manager (the ultimate Babyfaces Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, as opposed to the universally disliked Stephanie McMahon and the semi-popular Mick Foley); Smackdown had been touted as the ‘wrestling show’ whereas RAW was described more as the ‘entertainment show’.
Moreover, ever since RAW had shifted to a 3-hour format they’d been delivering lacklustre show after lacklustre show – whereas Smackdown was just 2 hours long. And while people had mixed reactions about the new ‘SmackDown Live’ logo, the new ‘RAW’ logo was universally panned.
RAW was under a whole lot of pressure to deliver. And deliver they did. Maybe with the best show of this year. Right off the bat, there was a big announcement. Because the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose had been drafted to Smackdown, there would be a Universal Championship for RAW.
What followed were 2 brilliant Fatal Four Way matches in which a new star was born - Finn Balor. Roman Reigns qualified to the finals to face this Demon (who wasn’t in Demon attire, but oh well…).
Sasha Banks and Charlotte stole the show, and a new Women’s Champion was crowned in one of the best women’s RAW matches I’ve ever seen. Braun Strowman and Nia Jax were portrayed as absolute monsters in entertaining squash matches, and Neville made an explosive return.
Did I mention Corey Graves was on commentary and took the show to a whole new pinnacle? Or that the rest of the commentary team, enthused by his presence, also stepped up their game? Overall I’d rate the show a solid ‘A’.
SmackDown started on the wrong foot. The entire roster was gathered by the ringside, and unlike RAW there had been no cosmetic changes made to the set. The newly hand-picked commentary team of Mauro Ranallo (who was exceptional as always…but one man can only do so much), JBL and David Otunga could not match the high standards set by the RAW announce team.
Moreover, when once glanced around the ring, one could see how weak the SmackDown roster was in comparison to RAW. Indeed, a disappointing Battle Royal, an awkward match between the Miz and Randy Orton, a repeat of Becky Lynch vs Natalia; and the announcement of Dolph Ziggler as the Number 1 contender (after a so-so Six Pack Challenge) for Dean Ambrose’s WWE World Heavyweight Title did not match up to the excitement of the night before.
Indeed, the more promising segments were a vignette that promised the return of Shelton Benjamin, another vignette which promised the debut of American Alpha Next week, and Rhyno’s return to SmackDown. Okay, maybe not even the last point, because he’s on NXT regularly anyway. Not a bad show by any means, but I’d say it was a ‘B –‘.
If you compare the ratings, it is easy to say that one emerges as the ‘A Show’ and the other as the ‘B Show’. However, I’m curious to see how the following week plays out. Who will Roman Reigns’ opponent be for SummerSlam?
What role will the cruiserweights play on RAW? What impact will American Alpha make on SmackDown? Will there be titles for the women and tag teams in the blue brand? Only time will tell. Stay tuned to Sportskeeda for next week’s review.
RAW BEATS SMACKDOWN. 1-2-3.